Nuova Lofra renews the Maxima kitchens range and launches new products with large dimensions, with a great attention to the export, between Australia and Middel East
by Maria Eva Virga
Since 1956 the brand Lofra is specialized in the production of appliances for cooking. After over an year of closure of the historic plant at Treponti di Teolo, in the province of Padua, in 2010 the company was acquired by the Iranian kitchens entrepreneur Reza Salehi, already importer of Lofra products in Iran. And from there the company relaunch begins, continuing to produce 100% in Italy, in the headquarters at Torreglia, in the area of the Colli Euganei, in the province of Padua. Obviously, with a special look to exports. Giulio Contini, export director of Nuova Lofra says: «In April 2010 the first goal we set ourselves was to re-establish contacts with foreign clients and restart production. The result? In the last four years the company has steadily grown, expanding the customer base, entering into new countries. »
How do you work abroad, through subsidiaries or distributors?
For each country we have an exclusive importer. They are operators equipped with warehouses and suitable structures for the redistribution of the products, with their own sales force, in some cases also with points of sale. For example, in Kuwait we rely on a customer that imports and distributes in its stores of electronics and household appliances. Other importers are more similar to our wholesalers nationwide. The importer then has the task of developing contacts and distribution on the territory.
So the sales force is more concentrated on Italy.
Yes, in Italy we have a commercial director and several agents on the territory, while exports have the back office staff. However, as director, I personally follow travels and contacts with the help of two agents. Foreign customers are about thirty, so at the moment they are very manageable with this easy structure. But we have not sales offices or branches abroad: they are costs that we can avoid, because every importer already follows its activities locally, being exclusive: we entrust the management of the land to those who already know it well.
Which are the main countries you address to?
Today, the most important countries for export are: Australia, Israel, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Palestine, Iran. The fastest growing countries in 2014 were Australia, Iran and Israel.
Besides the Middle East, why is Australia so important?
It is a market where Lofra has always been present, one of the first countries to export. In general it has always been a receptive market for Italian and European products, not only Lofra branded: the relationship among Italian food, taste and products for cooking are part of the Australian collective imagination. In addition, in Nuova Lofra they have found quality and sizes their market needs.
What types of products do you sell more abroad?
Lofra has historically been known for decades as a manufacturer of freestanding kitchens. Clearly we cannot ignore that foreign countries are more and more interested in built-in. In particular, the Middle East customers use gas built-in home appliances, rather than electrical, always with large sizes. After updating the production every year, today we have a complete range, which we launched at the IFA fair in Berlin for the first time in September 2014. In general, we can say that abroad we are more oriented toward the gas large size kitchen (90 cm), while in Italy we focus on the 60 cm models. However, a product specifically designed for abroad does not exist, because every market is peculiar and has its own characteristics and special requests.
What are the new products you will launch this year, both in Italy and abroad?
This year we will launch a new dimension, 100 cm, with a special attention for abroad, while we propose a new aesthetic, with new technical features, for the Maxima kitchen, typically Italian product. As regards the built-in, where there is more homogeneity between Italy and abroad, we are producing 90 cm ovens, both gas and electric, and we have a new range of 60 cm ovens, both electric and gas, mainly addressed to Italy.
Is to produce in Italy still rewarding for you?
Italy is one of the main countries where the freestanding products are still manufactured. We produce only and exclusively in the province of Padua and it makes no sense for us to produce abroad, because it is rewarding to be recognized 100% made-in-Italy: it means to ride internationally what customers expect, that is the suitable quality to a high level kitchen. Clearly we do not compete anymore in the low and middle segment of the market, as other Italians competitors, who in fact abandoned it: we chose the premium segment. The big brands, especially the famous ones, can afford to produce in Eastern Europe or China, but the small or medium-sized producers do not have this opportunity, both from the economic point of view and from the point of view of the image they want to give.
What is the export share on Nuova Lofra turnover?
In 2014 exports has been 60% of sales and the domestic market 40%. Of course the amount of exports changes from year to year and varies from country to country, also on the basis of political situations we encounter. For example, in Iran we could start again to export in the last two months of the year because of the embargo.
How has 2014 been, and what are the prospects for 2015?
In 2014 Nuova Lofra grew by 10%, reaching a turnover of about 13 million and a half euro. In 2012 we made a little over 12 million. In 2015 we expect to add another 10%, to reach 15 million. We expect to grow further both in Italy and abroad. Out of our country, I certainly expect a growth in Australia, England and the addition of new countries, which will widen our customer base: at the fair we had contacts with other exclusive importers and I am making targeted visits to launch the brand. The areas on which we intend to work in a particular way are America, both North and South, and the Middle East, of course where we are not yet present.
|THE ITALIAN RETAILER BETWEEN FREESTANDING AND BUILT-IN
«Nuova Lofra has decided to diversify the distribution on the basis of the product» - says Antonio Bernini, Italian market director. «In Italy – he goes on - for freestanding kitchens the interlocutor is the retailer of home appliances that choose to keep an important space dedicated to the freestanding kitchen. On the Italian market, in fact, there is a strong rift between those who specialize in freestanding cooking and those who use it as a complement to sales. Examples of specialized ones we supply are: the Sme chain, Export groups such as Colimex and Dggroup, partners Gre Gcc and Dml (Trony). We have ongoing negotiations also with Comet in Bologna. Among retailers, some have a very important and long-standing culture in the kitchen, such as Castagna di Villafranca di Verona and Ventura from Casalecchio di Reno. We take particular care of the operators who prefer the high-end product. Our price range, in fact, ranks above 800 euro and according to the rating of Gfk, being 100 the average of the market, we are worth 186, so we are twice the level of average price to the public in the freestanding cooking area. In this segment we are launching the aesthetic renewal of the Maxima range, which will cover about 30 products. As for the built-in our distribution choice was to rely to specialized distributors too, who are the managers of furniture stores, prepared to present particular built-in products like ours. There remains then a more commercial range, addressed to classic home appliances retailers. All our products have full warranty of three years, entirely chargeable up to us, thanks to our network of authorized service centers.»
|NUOVA LOFRA FIGURES
• Turnover 2014: 13.5 million euro, of which 60% export and 40% Italy (about 5.5 million)
• Foreign customers: 30
• Italian customer: 800 stores directly served or through distributors
• Customer care centers: 115 (Italy)
• Sold units in 2014: 8,500 kitchens (+ 9,000 for export) and 5,000 built-in products (+ 8,000 for export)
• 2015 sales target: 20,000 kitchens and 15,000 built-in products
• 2015 turnover target: 15 million euro